NFL Combine 2019 Preview: USC S Marvell Tell could impress, if healthy

Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy
Alicia de Artola/Reign of Troy /

USC safety Marvell Tell heads to the NFL Combine looking to show off his length and speed in front of NFL scouts, if an ankle injury doesn’t limit him.

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The 2018 season didn’t go as Marvell Tell and USC might have hoped. Despite the disappointment of a 5-7 season, the Trojan safety still stands as an intriguing draft prospect.

This weekend, Tell and a host of other NFL hopefuls will descend on Indianapolis for the NFL Combine, looking to prove their value.

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Can Tell get the attention of NFL scouts and improve his stock?

USC resume

Tell arrived as USC with high expectations and while he never hit the heights that may have been hoped for him, he served as a reliable starter for just over three seasons.

After seeing increased playing time at the end of his freshman season, Tell won a starting job as a sophomore. He impressed as a junior with All-Pac-12 first team honors while making plays all over the field.

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Returning for his senior season in 2018, he dealt with tons of turnover in the secondary as injury kept his safety partner from ever being fully established. Still, he was an All-Pac-12 honorable mention with 57 tackles, five deflections, an interception, a forced fumble and a blocked field goal.

All together, Tell started in 39 of 47 appearances in cardinal and gold.

Scouting report and draft stock

At 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, Tell’s frame is considered a little bit lanky for the pros, though he put his length to good use in coverage.

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Lance Zierlein of praised Tell for his speed and ability to close plays down quickly. However, he expressed concern over the safety’s physicality and consistency.

Tell can be physical and is capable of laying a big hit on an opponent, the question is whether he will be able to maintain his top level through four quarters of a game in the NFL.

ESPN credited Tell with “instinctive” play, ultimately concluding, “he’s a good player, but not an elite playmaker.”

As result, Tell appears to be a Day 2 NFL Draft prospect.

Combine expectations

Tell had to pull out of the Senior Bowl in January while still recovering from the ankle injury he suffered against UCLA. At the time, his agent said he anticipated his client would be ready in time for the NFL Combine.

So there are two questions going in: Will Tell be healthy enough to work out? And how much has the rehab from that injury impacted his ability to prep for Indianapolis.

If he is healthy, the Combine could be a major opportunity for him. Being able to show off his speed and agility in front of NFL scouts could go a long way towards solidifying his Day 2 hopes.

Either way, his measurables should work in his favor.